An Exclusive Chat With Source Beauty’s Founder on the Brand’s Journey, Identity and Inspiration

Source Beauty began its operations in 2018. Today it’s the leading beauty e-commerce platform that focuses on local millennial price-friendly beauty products in Egypt, with a growing business model based on principles of fairtrade, sustainability, cruelty-free, women’s empowerment, and economic development. It was founded by Dutch-Egyptian Lydia Schoonderbeek, who brought over 15 years of experience in luxury retail to the brand.

We had an exclusive interview with Lydia, the mastermind behind Source Beauty, and got to talk about how the platform came to life, the challenges that she faced, how COVID-19 disrupted the market, and more.

From idea to implementation, how did Source Beauty come to life?

Source Beauty is a beauty company and a tech company that is focused on Egyptian millennial price-friendly products that showcase natural and healthy skin. Unlike most companies, today that been built through retail channels -we’ve never existed through retail channels. Fundamentally we think how can we give our customers amazing experiences. We are extremely devoted to the customer as we don’t want to put things out there that aren’t great. Since we launched we have relied heavily on user-generated content and feedback. Which is really how we started as a blog in 2016. People’s opinion is really what matters in today’s digital age.

What are the challenges that you faced in creating the platform, and in spreading the word?

Beauty and e-commerce are two industries that don’t have any connection one is emotional and the other is transactional. So essentially what I set out to do is build a beauty tech company, which is what Source Beauty is today and it is how I explain it. The aim is to cater to a youth-tech-minded generation. Moreover, I wanted to build a de-centralized business model, which really means ‘no inventory’ retailing. My sole emphasis is focusing on marketing and imagery. I teamed up with a great developer, and they were very patient with me, and they left me with the creative element of the website, which is my strongest skill set. Having a website that takes you through a journey, with beautiful imagery. Did you know that consumer purchasing online is mainly led by imagery? Most female consumers make
purchasing decisions based on how good will this product look in my bathroom not what’s in it but the packaging. It is the number one driving factor in a sales transaction and of course that the packaging is
pink!

I set out with a list of brands that I wanted to launch with and I started connecting with them. The first brand that I met with was Caroline Beauty, I pitched my idea and he thought it was a great idea and that nobody has done this before in Egypt so why not. From him, I got another 11 brands on board that I launched Source Beauty with. Moving on from that, it had somehow reversed where beauty brands were asking us if they can showcase their products on Source Beauty. Which has brought us to the 58
brands that we carry on Source Beauty with over 1,600 beauty products.

What makes Source Beauty stand out from the competition?

Do you remember when fashion e-commerce websites launched abroad? Where buying clothes online seemed like a wild idea – ‘you can click and buy it from pictures and it’s delivered to you!’. This is where the beauty industry in Egypt is at today with e-commerce. We’re still in that mindset, which is great because there is so much potential for growth. And it makes it so much more exciting to be part of this wave as a leader that is helping to shape the entire scene. Till today we are still the only e-commerce website that sells and focuses on beauty products. As a founder, you have a wealth of knowledge and learnings based on data that you have accumulated. And you use those insights to paint a picture of what not so obvious unmet needs existed in the industry and how Source Beauty would address them. A critical piece in any business is building a solution and Source Beauty is ready to bring much-needed value to eager shoppers.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic influence the behavior of your customers?

Even before the pandemic, bricks and mortar (i.e. physical stores) companies were undergoing a major disruption, with expensive real estate rates and rentals, unmanageable supply chains, and an underpaid workforce. Where price discovery and information is immediately available online, physical retailers are being pushed to create a more memorable experience rather than pushing sales to stay relevant.
Moreover, e-commerce has been driving a new wave of consumer appetite which is mostly pushed by social media. This indicates that the trend towards e-commerce in Egypt will only grow stronger, where the relationship of brands and their customers will lean towards a stronger dynamic in the digital space.

Source Beauty is all about technology with humanity which is the key to building a one-to-one relationship at scale, how to grow the existing customer base without compromising or losing the “cool factor”. Additionally, communication is important as everyone wants to feel special and wanted. Online shopping provides lots of data on our customers, their browsing patterns, shopping habits, average spend, and the times they shop. For example, it’s very common for a woman to make a purchase last thing at night from her mobile phones in bed. The Egyptian female consumer loves the thrill of discovering a new product, brand, or service and being the first to know about it amongst her social set. It’s an incredible opportunity for knowledge, empathy, and building a creative platform based on the data. In conclusion, we are seeing 80% repeat customers, and a tremendous increase in shopping during the COVID crisis – I am sure that this will forever change many of the customer’s habits and we, at Source Beauty, shall be able to retain and grow our customer base.

What was your background before starting Source Beauty?

I was born and raised in Dubai, UAE to an Egyptian mother and a Dutch father until I was 12 years old. I then moved to Cairo where I finished high school, and then I moved to the UK to study computer science at university. It was while I was studying that I had started working at Harvey Nichols on the weekends to pay for my living expenses and university fees which is where my 20 years of luxury retail experience really began. From there I then worked at Vivienne Westwood, Dunhill, and then to the pinnacle of the retail world – Harrods. The basic requirement that I learned throughout my work experience in luxury retail is that customer service is non-negotiable in this industry. You can have a great product or service but nothing builds
your brand as effectively, nothing drives repeat purchases more quickly, nothing increases the value of your products and services more efficiently than customer service. Think about the last experience you’ve had with a luxury brand?

During that time I had known that I wanted to focus on beauty always found it interesting to see how important beauty is seen as a metric in our social world and the psychology that is attached with buying beauty products. I then moved back to Cairo where I was the Editor in chief to a publication house for 6 years, and during the last two years, I was studying for my MBA at Central Saint Martins in London, UK. So essentially I had started working on Source Beauty’s business plan during my MBA. Personally, I’ve always loved beauty. I’m a lover and consumer of beauty. This is my first job in the beauty industry.

What are your future plans?

For now, we are still focusing and fine-tuning on growing domestically where we continue to build strong brand awareness in a market where a large part of our customer service is on Instagram because this is where customers prefer to interact. Our customers’ feedback is what will ultimately help grow our business to other markets within the region. On the long-run, we expect that Source Beauty will be a regional leader in its e-commerce segment.

WE SAID THIS: Have you checked out the platform yet?

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